Come to the Stable' -a rural project in central London

 Sister Mary Joy Langdon SIJ writes: I am a member of the Sisters of the Infant Jesus and my community is in East Acton next to St Aidan's RC church. I would like to share with you a little of my unusual mission. Not far away from where I live is an open space of ground which is called Wormwood Scrubs and if you go for a walk there, you may see children riding out on ponies. These children and ponies probably come from the Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre. I started this centre in 1989 and continue to work there. It is a registered charity for inner city children and young people with physical disabilities and learning difficulties. The centre has a small staff and relies on volunteers to help with stable yard duties, administration, and maintenance work and also to help with the children. All volunteers are required to have suitable references and are CRB checked before they are allowed to work with the young people. When the Pony Centre started there were only three ponies and they lived in a small muddy paddock but with the help of volunteers several home made stables were built and a perimeter fence erected. Children came from all over London as well as the near by locality of White City. I remember a mother in the early days saying to me 'thank God for the Pony Centre, it has allowed my daughter to keep her childhood innocence'. Nearly 20 years later that is what is still happening, children come and spend their enthusiastic time, they learn to ride and care for another creature. They also learn to help one another. The children are in an out door environment and are physically occupied with a healthy activity. Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre has grown and developed over the years. Through the BBC's 'Challenge Aneka' programme there is now an indoor riding hall which enables riding to continue in what could be unsuitable weather. Children come with all types of disabilities and they receive many benefits from this activity as well as a great deal of fun. The centre now has 16 horses and ponies and operates 6 days a week. There is now a purpose built stable yard and two small paddocks where the ponies can be turned out. Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre has often been described as an oasis in the middle of London and that is what it really is. It is situated under the shadow of Wormwood Scrubs Prison and the White City estate and yet once you are in the stable yard you feel that you are in the middle of a truly rural setting with the smell of fresh hay, trees growing through stables, relaxed animals and happy children. The Pony Centre is a charity which struggles to raise financial funds to keep going. The main on site fund raising event is the 'Horses in Harmony Concert' which is on 21st June. This concert involves professional opera singers, musicians plus horses and riders. If there are any readers with businesses who would care to offer sponsorship please contact me as it would be most gratefully received. I also invite you to visit the website Please feel free to contact me for any further information about volunteering, donations or if you would like to organise a parish/school visit to this unique place. At the moment we do not have spaces for any more riders but you are welcome to put potential rider's name down on the waiting list. Finally there is a warm welcome to all readers to visit the stables and to experience first hand all that goes on there and to see the beauty of God's living creation. Sister Mary Joy Langdon SIJ

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